Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Hang the DJ top spot for '08!

And so my two standout albums of the year: Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago has been much written about and debated but it’s an album i’ve loved since getting an early copy on import from the US. The story behind the album’s genesis seems too romantic for some people, but for me it’s just a great album – sad and bruised and hopeful all to once – that has been a genuine word of mouth success. It hasn’t been hugely marketed, as sometimes happens (yet, at least), it wasn’t mined for singles and spin offs, it was just allowed to sit there and be talked about and discovered. His live shows too were stunning, i saw him twice and the songs seemed at once the same and different as you saw them played by his three piece band. Top marks from me.

My second record of the year is the Northline Soundtrack by Willy Vlautin & Paul Brainard, a forty minute instrumental album that accompanied Vlautin's sophomore novel published back in February (which is the only original soundtrack i know by the author of a published novel). I do admit to a bit of a bias here, having worked on the novel, but this is a beautiful piece of music – think Ry Cooder’s Paris, Texas meets Ennio Morricone and you’re in the right dusty field. Fans of Richmond Fontaine will know all about Paul Brainard’s pedal steel playing (also with the Sadies, M. Ward etc.) but the arrangements he and Vlautin came up with for acoustic guitar, steel, drums, harmonica and trumpet were gorgeous, evocative and moving – from the haunting title theme and its refrain to ‘Doc Holidays’ , ‘Paul Newman Saves the Night’ and on. This is still only currently available with the original edition of the novel, but if this is your kind of thing you should really track it down (and the novel is a stunner too), here's a taster...

Monday, 22 December 2008

Albums of the Year '08

So don’t worry about old Maggoty (i’m still at 6th form College) Lamb from the guardian, 2008 was, for me, a great year in music. There were really strong returns from two old favourites who had looked in a bit of a mess with their previous albums (DBT and Calexico) as well as a fine new project from M Ward in conjunction with a strange-voiced actress (She & Him). Also from the US there was a brilliant, and obscure covers album (Vetiver), two very slow-burn records that up until recently wouldn’t have made this list (The Felice Brothers and The Hold Steady) and the UK debut of a brilliant new voice whose gig at the Borderline back in March was one of my favourites of the year (Dawn Landes – seriously her album is worth a buy).
Closer to home, it was a fine year for British music too, with a superb young debut (Laura Marling) a second from a man with some serious high-lonesome to his voice (Pete Molinari), again a brilliant live performer, and then there was probably the most popular and warmly received winner of the Mercury Prize ever (Elbow). So here are ten albums (in no order) to check out if you haven’t already. Finally, i've held back my very top two albums for tomorrow's post...

Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
Calexico – Carried to Dust
She & Him – Volume I
Vetiver – Thing of the Past
The Felice Brothers
The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
Dawn Landes - Fireproof
Laura Marling – Alas, I cannot Swim
Pete Molinari – A Virtual Landslide
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

Friday, 19 December 2008

Guardian in 'moan' shock

Interesting piece from the Guardian Music Blog yesterday - inspired, annoying, or somewhere between the two? I'll leave that to you to decide...

Maggoty Lamb piece

Thursday, 18 December 2008

In brief...

and i won't be shy, today's the last day to order the book online if you want to receive it before xmas, so buy it HERE

If not, then you've still got a few days to get down to HMV, Zavvi, Waterstones or, even better, your local independent book shop.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

2008 playlist...

i was going to do singles of the year, but not many of these were singles as such. Instead i've gone for stand out tracks that have played again and again on my ipod or that i've used on mixes this year (with one exception, none of them are from my forthcoming albums of the year list)...

1. ‘Those Summer Nights’ Robert Wyatt & Bertrand Burgalat
70s styled Philly Soul from the great English eccentric in collaboration with a French guy I would never normally listen to, if I’m being honest. Totally brilliant.

2. ‘Young Love’ Mystery Jets
Moving on with a great bass line/riff this is the perfect adolescent pop song – and features the lovely Laura Marling as guest vocalist.

3. ‘Be the One’ Ting Tings
The best single from this girl/boy duo’s debut album, and it had some competition there (see also, 'Shut up and Let Me Go').

4. ‘Shape of my Heart’ Noah and the Whale
The year’s other great adolescent pop song, also featuring Laura Marling as guest vocalist.

5. ‘One Day Like This’ Elbow
Stand out track from their very fine Mercury-winning album… ‘I can only think it must be love’.

6. ‘Suffering Jukebox’ Silver Jews
Great lyrics and the saddest (and sexiest) backing vocal of the year.

7. ‘Soul on Fire’ Spiritualized
This tune is the perfect summary of everything Spiritualized – cracked vocals, gospel backing, strings, soul and fire in the lyrics.

8. and 9. ‘Better’ G N’R / ‘The Day that never Comes’ Metallica
My two ROCK songs of the year: Better was the one classic tune on Chinese Democracy and from Metallica’s fine return, The Day that Never Comes is awesome (dude), especially the middle section with its Thin Lizzy-like guitars.

10. ‘New York’ Cat Power
Jukebox was a bit disappointing, after The Greatest and her earlier covers album, but perhaps surprisingly this reworking of New York was great, a very sultry vocal and great arrangement by the band.

11. ‘Mykonos’ Fleet Foxes
Their self titled debut hasn’t quite made my albums of the year list, mainly as I didn’t think it was as good as their Sun Giant EP... where you can find this fine tune.

12. ‘Clear the Way’ Dawn Kinnard & Ed Harcourt
My favourite duet of the year, two distinctive voices that sounded amazing together.

An American Tune...

thanks to 'anonymous' who got in touch about Tom McRae's great post from Friday, here is a link to view the performance that Tom wrote about Paul Simon

My tracks of the year/2008 playlist coming up by the end of today...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

'Do they exist or did i dream them' pt ii

Anyone who might have been (?) following this blog from the start, will know that i asked back in September for some help tracking down the two Jodie Foster songs mentioned in Ali Smith's great list in the book. Well this weekend i got a sweet email from Christina (in America, i think)...

'I didn't know your blog existed until today when I saw Tom McRae's blog, which linked to his recent entry...

I'm writing because I scrolled through old entries and saw the one about two French songs sung by Jodie Foster. I don't know if you or anyone is still interested, but I can confirm that "Je t'attends depuis la nuit des temps" exists because I have a copy of it, clearly taken from vinyl or an old cassette because you can hear scratches at the beginning. I have no idea where, why, or how I got the song, but an Internet query led me to this very bizarre - but very amusing - video of her singing the song on TV.'

Sunday, 14 December 2008

And something not from 2008...

Thanks to all the guest post-ers this week, nice choices! I was at the St Giles' Bon Iver gig too, which was as special as Laura Barton made it sound.
I'm going to post my ten albums and tracks of the year lists towards the end of the week, but does anyone have a musical highlight of their own that they want to share? I have one Hang the DJ xmas goodie bag to give away to the person who's reply goes up.

In the meantime, and as it's Sunday night, here's something lovely from Aretha...

Friday, 12 December 2008

Tom McRae on Paul Simon

It seems a little defeatist to choose a TV appearance as my musical highlight of 2008, but here it is. Paul Simon singing 'An American Tune' on The Colbert Report, a couple of weeks after Obama had won the Presidency. No flag waving, no politicking, just one of the genius song-writers of the modern era singing one of his many quiet masterpieces. In that one moment he seemed to sum up the relief, the hope, but also the trepidation of a nation at the crossroads of history. And he did it all in a three minute performance on a half hour comedy show. "We come in the age's most uncertain hours and sing an American tune." Perfect.

Tom McRae Site

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Laura Barton on Bon Iver at St Giles Church, London

St Giles church sits a little way back from the road in central London, a stone's throw from Tottenham Court Road station, where the buses swing round onto New Oxford Street, and the pedestrians spill out across the pavements. On a weekday evening in early summer, when the trees in the churchyard hung heavy and waxy, Bon Iver played here at St Giles, a world away from the bustle outside, sitting quietly at the top of the aisle before an audience of some 200 people.
There was something about the Bon Iver album that lit me up. Released at the start of this year, For Emma, Forever Ago ran a mere 37 minutes long. Yet its nine songs proved more potent, more redemptive, more astonishing, than anything I have heard since Van Morrison's Astral Weeks.
I'd seen them played live in a number of locations, from the Social to the Scala, but I had never heard those songs sound quite so rapturous as that night at St Giles. Perhaps it was the setting that brought out the gospel tinge to Justin Vernon's voice, perhaps it was the instinctive sense of awe that descends whenever one finds oneself seated on wooden pews, before stained glass, breathing hallowed air. But as the evening unfolded in layers of falsetto, drums and steel guitar, the air quivered with utter devotion.
The audience that evening was largely made up of jaded music industry aficionados and hipster types, but by the end of the short, sweet set, there was a sense that we had all witnessed something monumental. For the final song, the band came out into the aisle to sing The Wolves (Act I and II), entirely without amplification. The audience crowded round, joined in, and afterwards cheered, applauded, whooped. I looked around and saw there row upon row of people — or perhaps we might call them believers — standing wet-eyed with joy.

Laura Barton

Bon Iver, Into the Woods...

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Peter Murphy on 'Go Easy' Ryan Adams & the Cardinals

Compassion is a tricky emotion to get across in a rock 'n' roll song. Full on pheremonal lust or cavalier Jack Nicholson couldn't-give-a-fuckery or total apocalyptic heartbreak, no problem. But any expression of empathy or caring runs the risk of sounding sappy.
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals pulled off the improbable this year with a song called 'Go Easy' off their Cardinology record. I'd never paid Mr Adams much attention before. I recall playing Gold a lifetime ago and thinking that if I wanted to hear a melange of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the Band and the Rolling Stones, I'd play them all in quick succession. My loss.
'Go Easy' plays like a letter to an ex-lover embroiled in some awful fix which the singer can do little about. When Adams sings,"I will always love you/So go easy on yourself" he sounds at once strong and sure and terribly vulnerable – you can tell he's still cut up about this person, even though the romance has burned off. He sounds powerless to intervene, but unable to not care. 'Go Easy' leaves us feeling that little bit more human than we were before we heard it. Which is about all we can ask of a piece of music.

Peter Murphy/John the Revelator Myspace


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Richard Milward on My Bloody Valentine's return

My bloody eardrums! My musical highlight of 2008 was feeling like the Camden Roundhouse was about to lift off, space-shuttle-like, as My Bloody Valentine struck into their notorious twenty-minute noisy section of ‘You Made Me Realise’. Coming out of hibernation for the first time in twelve years, the band were like blistering badgers, tearing their way through a delightfully deafening set. Despite owning more-or-less the whole MBV back catalogue, it took quite a while to work out which song was which, so smothered they were in creamy, destructive fuzz. For days afterwards, I had a mini My Bloody Valentine serenading me in my sleep, like my eardrums wanted to cling onto them as long as possible; just in case they decide to disappear again. Or it could’ve just been tinnitus.

Richard Milward’s Apples

Monday, 8 December 2008

Willy Vlautin on Willie Nelson, Oregon State Fair Aug 29 2008

I try to see the old time country greats whenever they get near Oregon, but there aren’t many left. Merle Haggard just canceled his tour through this area because of health problems and Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Buck Owens are all now gone. But Willie Nelson is still at it and played the state fair in Salem, Oregon this summer. His lead guitar player recently retired, his drummer is so old he can only play a few songs at a time, and Willie was just back from carpel tunnel surgery. I didn’t know what to expect, but with his hands free of pain the 75 year old played guitar like an acid cowboy Django Reinhardt for over two hours. He carries the band on his back and brings together hippies and punk rockers and rednecks and musos and old people. They’re all there just to see him, and they all leave saying the same thing. “I didn’t know he was that good of a guitar player.” Willie Nelson is the last of the old greats, please go see him while you can ‘cause even Willie can’t live forever.

Willy Vlautin Site

Friday, 5 December 2008

One Year Like This

So Elbow were deserved and popular winners of the Mercury Music Prize, Fleet Foxes got everyone into quite a frenzy, and even Axl Rose returned, but what were the real music highlights of 2008?

Starting on Monday will be the Hang the DJ Musical Moments of ’08, one post a day from five esteemed contributors: Peter Murphy, Richard Milward, Willy Vlautin, Laura Barton and Tom McRae. So tune in each day for some top tips and fine thoughts…

More of the Past

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Playlist ii

So here it is, the second Hang the DJ playlist (songs featured in the book, of course). I've failed to create a link up to Last FM so you'll have to rifle through your own collection/get downloading...

Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Changes – David Bowie
Common People – Pulp
If I Was Your Girlfriend - Prince
Let Me Down Easy – Bettye LaVette
I Put a Spell on You – Nina Simone
Stand by Your Man – Candi Staton
If you’ve gotta go… - Bob Dylan
Ramblin’ Man – Hank Williams
Debaser – The Pixies
Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis – Tom Waits
Till the Morning Comes – Neil Young

Look out here for news of the Hang the DJ 2008 best musical moments, which will run next week... plus the big xmas giveaway

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

More on Vetiver...

link here to the ever great aquarium drunkard site, who've dug up MP3s for four of the oringinals on Vetiver's EP Drunkard

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Into My Arms

Playlist ii coming up later this week, as promised. In the meantime, here's a video from playlist i, as featured in Kathryn Williams' list in the book...

Monday, 1 December 2008


Cat Power
I sometimes wonder if EPs are the music equivalent of short story collections (ie. they don't sell), but there are three just coming out that sound great (and would make fine stocking fillers come to think of it). Firstly the above pictured Cat Power's, which features (and it's quite a tracklist) the covers that didn't make her Jukebox album of this year:
1. "Auld Triangle (The Pogues)
2. "Dark End of the Street (James Carr)
3. "Who Knows Where the Time Goes (Sandy Denny/Fairport Convention)
4. "Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
5. "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) (Otis Redding)
6. "It Ain't Fair (Aretha Franklin)

Secondly, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's, Keep Me in Mind Sweetheart (the title track of which was a stand out on their Sunday at Devil Dirt album). And finally Vetiver's More of the Past. I posted here a little whil ago on the joys of their album Thing of the Past, so i'm really looking forward to more obscure discoveries on this one (which was originally meant to predate the album's release).